Last night my son and I were talking and he mentioned a book he saw in his school library about the “Wise Men of Chelm”. He told me one story (the one about the bell that signals the town’s fire brigade) and I, in turn told him the following:
The was once a debate in Chlem about which item actually makes tea taste sweeter: the Sugar or the Spoon.
One side held that it was the sugar because when you pour the sugar in your cup of tea and stir it, the sugar will disappear. When you can’t see the sugar then your tea is sweetened.
Now the other side believed that the tea would be sweetened by the spoon itself. The sugar’s only purpose was so that one would know how long to stir. When the sugar had dissolved then the spoon would have sufficiently sweetened the cup of tea.
My son thought this story was hilarious. He told me that it was funny because even though everyone knows sugar makes thing sweet, in then end it really doesn’t make a difference, as long as you like sweetened tea. He went on to bed and I kept think about this story.
People like stories that point out the silliness of others. It’s the same reason we might laugh when we see someone trip or slip on the ice. It makes us feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t make us better people, though. Like those in Chelm, I know that I tend to get confused about what is causing certain things to happen. I’m lucky that my wife usually points this out to me. Focusing too much on the spoon blinds you from seeing what is truly sweet in life. (For the record, this last line too about 4 different rewrites).
“Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man.”- Pirkei Avos (4:1)